Mechanical Engineering Technician
Kaihangarau Take Pūkaha
This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Mechanical engineering technicians assist with the design, building and maintenance of machines, such as air-conditioning systems, heating and ventilation units and power plants. They also develop manufacturing quality control systems by studying and improving the mechanical processes and machinery on production lines.
Graduate mechanical engineer technicians usually earn
$40K-$45K per year
Mechanical engineering technicians with over four years' experience usually earn
$60K-$80K per year
Current job prospects
How many people are doing this job?
Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
Pay for mechanical engineering technicians depends on where they work, and how much experience they have. According to industry sources:
- Graduate mechanical engineering technicians can earn between $40,000 and $45,000 a year.
- Mechanical engineering technicians with four to six years' experience can expect to earn between $60,000 and $80,000.
What you will do
Mechanical engineering technicians may do some or all of the following:
- oversee the assembly of machinery
- make recommendations on how to improve machinery
- calculate costs and the amount of equipment required to build machines
- give advice on installing equipment and machinery
- test and repair equipment and machines
- monitor equipment and machines to improve mechanical processes
- prepare drawings and develop machines according to requirements
- prepare contracts and contact suppliers
- plan and give advice on equipment and machinery maintenance work
- supervise and work with staff at power and manufacturing plants.
Skills and knowledge
Mechanical engineering technicians need to have:
- understanding of different machines and how they work
- knowledge of how to design, build and maintain machinery
- knowledge of welding processes
- knowledge of metals and their properties
- knowledge of maths and physics.
Mechanical engineering technicians also need to keep up to date with changes in technology, equipment and manufacturing methods.
Mechanical engineering technicians:
- usually work a regular 40-hour week, but some may do shift work.
- usually work in workshops, factories, power plants, offices and on building sites.
- may work in noisy and dirty conditions, and may have machinery that can be dangerous and needs to be handled with care.
- may travel between local sites or overseas on contract.
What's the job really like?
Watch the video above to find out more about a career in mechanical engineering - 6.06 mins. (Video courtesy of Competenz)
Clinton: Mechanical engineering is all about the designing and building of mechanical devices to do the jobs people can’t or don’t want to do. Today we’ve bought James along to meet mechanical engineer John Bannister, owner of Automac Engineering.
John: Gidday. I’m John Bannister, good to meet you.
Clinton: A mechanical engineering technician designs mechanical components to precise calculations to suit its intended purpose. Then, with computer-aided drawing, or CAD, the manufacturing process of that part begins. Today they’ll be taking a CAD drawing and making a shaft and sprocket component for a box-folding machine.
John: We’re going to design up a couple of parts with some sprockets and bearing and bits and pieces on it and then we’ll go and manufacture the parts this afternoon.
James: Yep, cool.
John: Mechanical engineering would start off with design, and then you’ve got the workshop element of it, which is manufacturing the parts and then assembling the machinery and then installation and commissioning onsite. And then towards the end you get involved in programming and software and that sort of stuff. So there’s some electrical content in there as well, so I’m certainly not stuck behind my desk from nine til five, that’s for sure.
Clinton: Nice work, James! So with the appropriate safety gear on and their design in hand, it’s time to transform the measurements into cold hard steel.
John: OK James, so we’ve got our drawing here of the part that we made. Looking at the drawing we need 78.85 millimetres, so we’ll make it 81mm long and we can machine it to length.
James: Yep, cool.
John: The sort of qualities that makes someone a good engineer is firstly, I think, you need to be a relatively practically minded person, be good in a team environment and very importantly, I think problem solving skills is something that you need to have – being able to work through a problem and come up with a solution.
John: There you go, there’s a bit of steel that we’ll machine up, so we’ll just give it a bit of wipe down. Put that in the lathe and we’ll machine it.
James: Cool, sounds good. Let’s go.
Clinton: From here, the centre lathe refines the coarse steel bar to within a 100th of a millimetre, and it’s starting to resemble the sprocket and shaft it will become. The machined part is then sent offsite to be laser cut.
John: One of the production processes that has really sort of revolutionised the way that engineering is done in recent years is laser cutting.
Clinton: Laser cutting is a precision "cutting edge" technology used to finely cut metal materials. The high-powered beam of the laser is directed on to the metal via computer, leaving an edge with a smooth, high-quality surface area.
John: It’s a really fast and cost-effective way of making componentry.
Clinton: While waiting for the part to come back, John takes James to JMP Engineering to take a closer look around a larger-scale operation. Mechanical engineering technicians need a good understanding of all manufacturing processes, including welding. A technician in this field would oversee the entire design and manufacturing process to ensure the work is done to specification and to a high quality.
Clinton: Robotics is a rapidly advancing field within mechanical engineering. Chris and James set to work calibrating this carton palletising machine to stack over 30 cartons per minute.
Chris: OK, the robot is now live. The first motion that you want to do is straight up out of the accumulator. So you hold the "Z+" down, no no, hold that down, keep bringing it up, keep bringing it up, rise all the way up until it’s clear.
James: So how did you get into the whole engineering thing?
Chris: When I was at school I always enjoyed engineering, building things – built boats, things like that. So engineering was always going to be what I wanted to do, it was just a matter of how I went about doing it.
Clinton: Chris went on to complete his mechanical engineering apprenticeship, then went on to higher study with his National Diploma in Engineering Equivalency, giving him the necessary design, mathematical and programming skills for his technician’s role.
Chris: And that was 10 years ago.
James: Wow, 10 years?
Chris: And now I get to play with these things.
Clinton: Back at the Automac workshop, the sprocket and shaft part is ready to be installed. The tray-former machine takes a piece of flat cardboard and makes over 830 boxes per hour.
John: So we’ll take your part, we’ll install it in the machine and see if it works eh? Let’s give it a try. Excellent.
Chris: Right, so what we need to do is we need to mount up the stub shaft in there first, then we’ll put the chain and the sprockets on there. So it’s got to come in from my side.
James: That way?
John: Personally I find mechanical engineering very rewarding. The main reason for that is we take an idea that we’ve been given by the customer, or an idea that we’ve worked on with the customer, and we take that idea and we go away and we design a solution, we build some equipment and we install the equipment and see it running. So you’ve taken an idea and turned it into a reality. That’s personally very rewarding.
John: OK, it feels pretty good.
Clinton: So with the shaft and sprocket installed and all the nuts and bolts in place, it’s crunch time.
John: Press start and see if the part works.
James: All right, let’s go.
John: It works.
James: Cool, that’s good!
Clinton: Looks like James has a heavyweight career in boxing ahead of him!
John: I think we’ve done well here James!
James: So do I!
John: We deserve a cuppa I reckon!
James: Yes, it is about that time isn’t it?
John: Maybe some cake?
James: Yeah definitely.
James: Oh look at this, choice!
John: I think we deserve it. Cake?
James: Nah you can have it.
Clinton: So John how do you think James went?
John: James did really well today. He’s definitely got quite a practical aptitude, so that’s really important.
James: Mechanical engineering? Yep, it’s exciting. There’s definitely a lot that goes on, lots of excitement, lots of skills you have to learn on the job and that’s a skill that I can now take away with me and put to use somewhere.
Clinton: There is a real shortage of mechanical engineering technicians in New Zealand and the chances of getting a job are good. Useful subjects to study at school include English, maths, physics, chemistry and graphics. To become a mechanical engineering technician, a National Diploma in Engineering Level 6 is recommended. This takes two years of full-time study. Or you can complete your diploma as a cadet.
To become a mechanical engineering technician you need to complete a New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (NZDE) (Mechanical). This qualification takes two years of full-time study to complete.
Once on the job, mechanical engineering technicians can work towards completing the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering Practice (NZDEP), which leads to certification as an engineering technician with the Institution of Professional Engineers of NZ (IPENZ).
To gain entry into the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (Mechanical), it is recommended that you have a minimum of 48 NCEA credits at Level 2 in four subjects, including at least 12 credits in mathematics. Physics is also highly recommended, and technology subjects may be useful.
Mechanical engineering technicians need to be:
- practical and accurate, with an eye for detail
- able to make decisions quickly and work well under pressure
- good at problem-solving
- patient and confident
- motivated and disciplined
- able to work well independently and as part of a team.
- good with computers
- good at technical drawing
- well organised, with good communication and time management skills.
Useful experience for mechanical engineering technicians includes:
- work in an engineering workshop
- any work using hand tools or operating machinery
- welding and sheet metal work.
Some work situations may require mechanical engineering technicians to be agile and to work at heights.
Mechanical engineering technicians can register as certified engineering technicians with the Institution of Professional Engineers (IPENZ).
- Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) website - information on becoming a Certified Engineering Technician
Find out more about training
- (04) 473 2023 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.futureintech.org.nz/
- Heavy Engineering Research Association (HERA)
- (09) 262 2885 - email@example.com - www.hera.co.nz/
- Institute of Refrigeration, Heating & Air Conditioning Engineers (IRHACE)
- (09) 262 1405 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.irhace.org.nz/
- Institution of Professional Engineers NZ (IPENZ)
- (04) 473 9444 - email@example.com - www.ipenz.org.nz/ipenz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Opportunities are especially good for those with experience.
According to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates, the number of people in the role remained relatively flat between 2010 and 2012. However, demand for their services has been rising.
Because of this, mechanical engineering technician appears on Immigration New Zealand's immediate skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled mechanical engineering technicians from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Demand stronger in the South Island and for experienced mechanical engineering technicians
South Island employers of mechanical engineering technicians are also reported to have more trouble filling vacancies than those in the North Island.
Mechanical engineering technicians work for a range of employers, including:
- industrial machinery and equipment manufacturers
- domestic appliance manufacturers
- automotive, rail and aircraft engineering companies
- the Defence Force
- power generation companies.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2014.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Immediate Skill Shortage List', accessed September 2014, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Experienced mechanical engineering technicians can move into supervisory roles.
They may specialise in a number of different areas that involve mechanical processes and technology. These include:
- heating and ventilation
- manufacturing (including dairy, meat and textiles)
- heavy manufacturing
- power generation and roading.
Last updated 27 October 2016